The gentleman in the corner
If I wrote in another subgenre, it would be . . . well, the question is more what wouldn’t I write? Where my imagination roams depends a lot on my mood. Horror? Western? Fantasy? They all have their attractions, and I’m a literary flirt.
Still, I leave an idea to frolic in the wilds for quite some time before I rope it onto the page. This weeds out the passing fancies. If a story idea is strong, it’ll keep coming back to tempt me. Sometimes it’s just a character, a situation, or a setting that pops up every month or so to say, “How about me?” Sooner or later, I have to do something about it.
One genre that keeps coming back is historical mystery. I love history, I love the macabre, I love moody settings, and I know the detective because he loafs in an armchair in a dark room in my imagination, patient as a jungle cat.
“Someday,” I say.
“I know,” he replies from the shadows.
And we wait. I don’t know all the pieces of his story, although I know a few. It doesn’t pay to rush at this point because there are those whose claims on my writing hours come first. Deadlines, commitments, and promises to keep. However, I know his time will come, because he’s been there for years, growing a little bit stronger each time he strolls out for a look at what I’m up to.
“Hellhounds, you say?” says he with a lift of one eyebrow. “I hope they clean up afterward.”
“Back to your chair,” says I.
And he goes, just waiting for the imaginary murder that will call his talents into play.
Waiting for the right moment to begin a book is a bit like waiting for a pond to freeze. I know who wants to share my hero’s bed, and whom he watches cross the ballroom floor. What I don’t know is why. Without that, all I have is cat’s ice on a dark and murky pond. No skating yet. There’s not enough to support the weight of a book.
But, one by one, those answers present themselves in random moments, and only when they’re not pursued. Sooner or later there will be enough and then . . . we’ll see what this gentleman is made of.